Tuesday’s announcement that Sebastian Saavedra has been signed to drive the No. 6 Dragon Racing entry, a car piloted by Katherine Legge in 2012, has been met with a critical response by the open-wheel veteran.
Legge, who returned to Indy car competition last season after racing in the European DTM series, issued a statement Wednesday morning that details a number of her issues with her former sponsor and employer.
“I am extremely disappointed that Dragon Racing and sponsor TrueCar have announced a replacement IndyCar driver for [the No.] 6 car,” she said. “I received a letter from Dragon Racing, terminating my services on January the 18th. My legal team had asked for details regarding the reasoning for this termination but none have been provided.”
Legge’s next course of action, according to the release, will involve lawyers.
“I signed a two year deal for 2012/2013 with TrueCar as a sponsor, and then I took that sponsorship to Dragon Racing shortly thereafter,” she said. “Jay Penske told (TrueCar CEO) Scott Painter that he would bring the Penske Dealerships onboard with TrueCar if I signed with Dragon Racing, so it seemed like it would be a good fit for all. I firmly believe that Dragon Racing and TrueCar cannot proceed without me and I will be taking legal action to protect my rights.”
According to Legge, being released by the team two months before the start of the season, along with some leftover issues from 2012, has left her in a difficult position to join the IndyCar grid in 2013.
“It was a very difficult season last year, we did very little testing and I was made to sit out of some of the races,” she said. “Jay Penske’s actions in Nantucket then really hurt my ability to find additional and personal sponsors, and it was highly embarrassing, especially with the message that we were trying to portray. I was very much looking forward to 2013, using the experience I gained last year as a spring board for greater success.
“I am in a very fortunate position to have the FIA (of which I am a Female Driver Ambassador) and Girl Scouts (STEM Ambassador) onboard with my career and I am working feverishly to put something together. However, having this happen so late in the game has made it virtually Legge sat atop a marketing program created by TrueCar that backed female racers, and questioned if and how that advertising plan will continue forward.
“I am not sure where TrueCar and Virgin stand on the ‘Women Empowered Initiative’ moving forward,” she said. “I can tell you that I feel like I have been treated very unfairly in all of this and the last thing I feel at the moment is ‘Empowered’! Scott Painter told the press on numerous occasions that it was a two-year deal with myself and how he believed women could race on an equal footing with the guys.
“I have spent most of this off-season trying to help TrueCar mitigate their costs and bring sponsors onboard with their Initiative, having invested a great deal of my own time, effort and money, so this has come as a huge shock.”
With Legge’s next move involving the courts, finding a solution to this dispute could take months or years.
In the meantime, and without a team or sponsor, Legge’s career is on hold.
“I have fought very hard, every step of my career, to get the opportunities that I have created for myself and I will continue to do so,” she said. “I want to thank everybody for their support during all of this; it has been very tough for me to watch it unfold.”
Having heard Legge’s impassioned side of the story, it’s unknown whether Penske, Painter or the Dragon team will issue a formal response.